The Sioux Chef: Putting culture back into food culture |

The Sioux Chef: Putting culture back into food culture

The Sioux Chef, Oglala Lakota Sean Sherman will visit Nevada City for the Sierra Seeds fundraiser, "Feasting at the Grinding Stone: A Celebration of Indigenous Food, Story and Song" from 6 to 9 p.m. April 23.
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Feasting at the Grinding Stone tickets and Sierra Seeds:

The Sioux Chef:

The Living Wild Project:

Berkeley Open Source Food:

For their first ever dinner fundraiser, San Juan Ridge-based Sierra Seeds is going beyond the typical local food feast by setting the table for a five-course meal prepared by a nationally recognized chef who specializes in “pre-contact” Native American foods.

The Sioux Chef, Oglala Lakota Sean Sherman, will make a special stop in Nevada City as part of his West Coast tour for the event, “Feasting at the Grinding Stone: A Celebration of Indigenous Food, Story and Song” from 6 to 9 p.m. April 23.

Shelly Covert from the Nevada City Rancheria, Nisenan will add another dimension to the evening with story and song accompanied by poetic offerings from Eve Bradford.

Local wild food author Alicia Funk, of The Living Wild Project, will gather native, local and seasonal ingredients for the dinner including elderberry flowers and spring fir tips.

“I’m thrilled to collaborate in the upcoming feast. We are lucky to have a chef of his caliber reminding us of our connection to the land we inhabit,” said Funk.

A chef for 27 years, Sean Sherman was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He made a shift in his culinary focus a few years ago when he became interested in the “pre-reservation” indigenous knowledge of wild and traditionally cultivated food — its history, flavor, and culinary technique.

His studies of the ancient pantry of wild foods have taken him to the Crow tribes of the Bighorn and Beartooth Mountain Ranges in Wyoming and Montana, to his native Lakota plains in the Dakotas, to the Ojibwe and Dakota forests and lake region throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Since the 2014 opening of his business, “The Sioux Chef,” Sherman has caught national attention. His popularity corresponds with what appears to be the next great food trend as more and more high-end chefs look to wild foods for the menu.

“He really shows the depth of flavor of these food and he takes it to next level,” said Rowen White, founder of Sierra Seeds.

White met Sherman during her travels consulting and teaching tribes about food sovereignty.

“I was really inspired by his unique technique of food preparation,” she said.

For his visit, Sherman brings his ethno botanical knowledge to the table while illuminating the wild foods from this region — oak (acorn) flour, Manzanita sugar, miners lettuce, bay leaves — then puts his own modern spin on the meal.

“Already tickets are really selling fast,” said White.

Cooking with wild foods is catching on as a dairy free, gluten free, nutrient dense healthy alternative to contemporary Western diets.

“It’s actually very Paleo. These foods when we eat them make us feel real good,” said White.

In Berkeley this week, five innovative Bay Area restaurants, including Chez Panisse, will feature wild and “feral” foods on their menus as part of the first “Wild Food Week” organized by Berkeley Open Source Food. Funk is providing ingredients for the event.

The day prior to the Sierra Seeds dinner, The Sioux Chef will teach a small hands-on cooking class to 20 people, focusing on traditional Native American techniques and knowledge April 22.

This is the seventh season for Sierra Seeds. The small independent seed company began with 40 varieties in the first catalogue and has grown to over 350 today, with 50 more varieties expected to be added in the coming year.

The original idea was to offer seeds adapted to the Sierra Nevada Foothill region’s particular micro-climates.

Now, the circle of growers for Sierra Seeds has grown to 12 farms, with the home research farm still located on the San Juan Ridge.

“We’ve basically established a seed bank for our area,” White said.

Today, the mission of Sierra Seeds is largely education-driven with a full calendar of workshops focused on saving seeds: why local seeds matter; the economic, political and cultural impacts of seed saving and drought proofing the garden.

“In a time when California is plagued by drought, we need to look for local food solutions that don’t require extensive water. Our California native plants supported a thriving indigenous population for thousands of years. It’s time to return to the heritage of this landscape,” said Funk.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at or 530-913-3067.

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